After making the decision to go cosmetically "clean" I almost immediately overwhelmed myself. I started, as I said in my last post, by putting together a list of ingredients to look out for in products. Unfortunately, I knew that if I took the time to research every ingredient on that list to know *why* I should avoid it and then validate those findings I'd never make any changes, so for the time being I made the assumption that these people know what they're talking about.
Equipped with this list I made my way to the store. If a product had an ingredient on the list I put it back on the shelf. I was specifically in the "natural" aisle so I really didn't think it would take too long and I'd have a fairly large choice of options. Um…no. I admit that I didn't look at ALL the products available, but it took a good 20-30 minutes to find a face wash and night moisturizer that did fairly well when compared to my list. That's way too long in my opinion, but I was still pumped. I was on my way to being clean and healthy!
My excitement (and pride in myself for making the clean choice), didn't last long, though. You see, in my mind, I typically equate "clean" products with being better working products (when compared to "not so clean" versions). Um…no. Better for you? Very likely. Better working on your skin? Not always.
Now, I completely understand that the clear-ness of your face is decided by many different factors - what you eat, genetics, hormones, your skincare regimen, etc. But in my mind, the easiest thing to blame, and change, is your skincare products and routine. Which is why I imagined my acne (yes, I'm in my late 30s and have acne…so fun!) would clear right up when I started using clean products. Um…no. But, based on my first shopping experience, how was I ever going to find a clean product that worked for my face?! Sigh.
It was at this point that I came across the Skin Deep Cosmetic Database by EWG. This is a website where you can look up ingredients or products and see how good or bad they are for you, based on the research available. While the site is far from perfect I find it a great resource as someone who hasn't done all the research myself. My biggest frustration is that the product I'm looking for often isn't included in their database. But, to be fair, there are millions of products out there…they can't ALL be in there! Plus, if I really wanted to I could build my own report by inputting all the ingredients in the product. I have yet to find an ingredient not found in their database (that I can remember, at least).
You can go to the site to learn exactly how it works, but in a nutshell the database rates products and ingredients with two ratings - a hazard rating (1 being the best or lowest hazard and 7 being the worst or highest hazard) and a data availability rating (with a range from None to Robust). The cleanest rating a product or ingredient can get, therefore, is 1/Robust.
What I found interesting, after surfing the website for a while (does anyone still say "surfing the web"?), is that many products can have a 1 (low hazard) rating even though they have an ingredient on someone's "avoid at all cost" list. That made me sigh with relief and stress me out at the same time. On the one hand, it meant that the use of "avoid at all cost" lists can be too strict. On the other hand, it meant that it's not as "easy" as just using an "avoid at all cost" list. You have to take more into account. Sigh.
The good news, though, is that EWG's Skin Deep group does all the research for you. Yes, you have to trust someone else's work. But you don't have to spend years re-learning chemistry and reading hundreds of scientific studies. I know which of those options I'm picking. If you happen to remember your chemistry or want to read horribly boring (to me) scientific studies the database denotes their data sources and includes some chemistry type of information as well.
I've found it easy to get lost or overwhelmed with the Skin Deep database, but overall it has been very helpful. In fact, it helped me find the new basic skin care regimen I'm currently using. More on that next time.